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Health & Physical Development

Health and Physical Development (HPD) Domain

The Health and Physical Development domain focuses on children’s physical growth and motor development, sound nutritional choices, self-care, and health and safety practices. Children’s development in this area supports learning and plays a part in their ability to be successful in any type of activity. Healthy children who are able to move and play are ready to learn more effectively in all domains.

During the time from birth to age five, children’s bodies go through a period of rapid growth. Their body more than doubles in size and their brain develops more rapidly than during any other period in the lifespan. Helping children establish good health and eating habits is extremely important. Good nutrition promotes not only physical growth and health, but also cognitive skills such as memory, problem solving, and decision-making. Children grow and develop best when they are provided a healthy and balanced diet, have sufficient rest, and are physically active to help develop strength and stamina.

In addition to healthy eating habits, young children develop motor skills that support coordination and physical fitness. Although developmental milestones don’t occur at the exact same time for all children, their growth and motor development tends to follow a similar sequence as their skills build upon each other. They move from turning over to sitting up, from crawling to walking, and then from running to playing organized games. They also develop fine or small motor skills as they learn to use their hands for a variety of tasks.

Health and physical development also includes children’s growing independence in carrying out personal routines and their awareness of health and safety practices. This awareness and independence grows when children begin to participate in individual routines such as bathroom responsibilities, putting away toys, or washing their hands. It is particularly important to pay attention to families’ preferences and the routines that children are accustomed to at home. Self-care routines that are consistent with the family’s culture will be more comfortable for children. Also, teachers and caregivers should be careful to help children develop a sense of independence in ways that are comfortable for families. When children are very young, they need the constant presence and guidance of adults to help them carry out routines and ensure their safety. However, as they grow older, children show greater independence. Caregivers and teachers can work with families to decide when and how to promote children’s self-care routines and independence. Early childhood programs can promote physical development by providing children with a safe, supervised environment where play is encouraged and children have ample opportunities to explore. Both indoors and outdoors, children need opportunities to move freely, to explore different types of play equipment, and to participate in planned and spontaneous movement activities. Teachers and caregivers should provide time for children to play and participate in a variety of activities in a risk-free, noncompetitive environment. Children also need opportunities to choose from activities that will help them develop their fine motor skills by working with a variety of age-appropriate materials such as play dough, blocks, sand and crayons. For older children, this could include computers that have a modified mouse and touch screen capacity. Over time, engaging in these activities will help children develop the strength, control and hand-eye coordination necessary for self-help skills such as dressing and eventually, for writing.

Finally, it is important to remember that each child develops at his/her own pace. However, teachers and caregivers may be the first to notice that a child’s development is not consistent with typical expectations. If a parent or teacher is concerned that a child is not meeting many or all of the Early Learning Guidelines described in this document, additional evaluation may be needed. Be sure to consult a pediatrician, neurologist, or developmental specialist to determine if further intervention is needed.

Component: Physical Health and Growth

Goal HPD-1: Children develop healthy eating habits.

Goal HPD-2: Children engage in active physical play indoors and outdoors.Goal HPD-3: Children develop healthy sleeping habits.

Goal HPD-3: Children develop healthy sleeping habits.

Component: Motor Development

Goal HPD-4: Children engage in play and movement to develop the large muscle control and abilities needed to explore and move in their environment.

Goal HPD-5: Children engage in play and experiences to develop muscle control and hand-eye coordination to manipulate objects and work with tools.

Component: Self-care, Safety, and Well-Being

Goal HPD-6: Children develop personal hygiene and self- care skills.

Goal HPD-7: Children use safe behaviors and personal safety practices with support from adults.








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